"When a Woman Loves a Man" by David Lehman


When she says margarita she means daiquiri.

When she says quixotic she means mercurial.

And when she says, "I'll never speak to you again,"

she means, "Put your arms around me from behind

as I stand disconsolate at the window."

He's supposed to know that.

When a man loves a woman he is in New York and she is in Virginia

or he is in Boston, writing, and she is in New York, reading,

or she is wearing a sweater and sunglasses in Balboa Park and he

is raking leaves in Ithaca

or he is driving to East Hampton and she is standing disconsolate

at the window overlooking the bay

where a regatta of many-colored sails is going on

while he is stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway.

When a woman loves a man it is one ten in the morning

she is asleep he is watching the ball scores and eating pretzels

drinking lemonade

and two hours later he wakes up and staggers into bed

where she remains asleep and very warm.

When she says tomorrow she means in three or four weeks.

When she says, "We're talking about me now,"

he stops talking. Her best friend comes over and says,

"Did somebody die?"

When a woman loves a man, they have gone

to swim naked in the stream

on a glorious July day

with the sound of the waterfall like a chuckle

of water rushing over smooth rocks,

and there is nothing alien in the universe.

Ripe apples fall about them.

What else can they do but eat?

When he says, "Ours is a transitional era,"

"that's very original of you," she replies,

dry as the martini he is sipping.

They fight all the time

It's fun

What do I owe you?

Let's start with an apology

Ok, I'm sorry, you dickhead.

A sign is held up saying "Laughter."

It's a silent picture.

"I've been fucked without a kiss," she says,

"and you can quote me on that,"

which sounds great in an English accent.

One year they broke up seven times and threatened to do it

another nine times.

When a woman loves a man, she wants him to meet her at the

airport in a foreign country with a jeep.

When a man loves a woman he's there. He doesn't complain that

she's two hours late

and there's nothing in the refrigerator.

When a woman loves a man, she wants to stay awake.

She's like a child crying

at nightfall because she didn't want the day to end.

When a man loves a woman, he watches her sleep, thinking:

as midnight to the moon is sleep to the beloved.

A thousand fireflies wink at him.

The frogs sound like the string section

of the orchestra warming up.

The stars dangle down like earrings the shape of grapes.